First, the good news. The Yankees beat the Orioles, 8-5 last night at The Stadium while the Tigers and Red Sox both lost. The Bombers are three-and-a-half games ahead of the Tigers in the wildcard standings (four in the loss column), and just three-and-a-half behind the Sox in the AL East. All the makings of a good night.
We shouldn't complain. It's just that sitting through another interminable Yankees-Orioles game almost takes the fun out of baseball. Last night's game lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes. Oy and veh.
"There are times when he pitches and he looks unhittable, and then there are other times where his ability to command the strike zone just isn't there and it usually costs him, or it has in recent outings.
"What he's got to do is ... repeat his delivery. You just see his delivery at times, he falls off to the side, the ability to command his pitches comes and goes. He certainly has the stuff, but you saw tonight a couple of key instances in the ballgame where he had to pitch behind and then he had to come in there with fastballs and they made him pay for it."
Phillip Hughes coughed up a couple of runs in the first innning but then settled down. However, with two out in the sixth, he quickly ran out of gas. Hughes walked Miguel Tejada on four pitches, gave up a double to Kevin Millar, and then walked Aubrey Huff on four consecutive pitches. The phone line between the Yankee dugout and the bullpen was out, and so the bullpen coach was reduced to making hand gestures. After Hughes threw ball one to Melvin Mora, Torre replaced him with Edwar Ramirez.
The first pitch Mora saw from Ramirez was a fastball, outside for ball two. Then, he looked a fastball strike before swinging through two change ups. The Yankees were out of the jam. But Ramirez gave up three hits and hit a batter in the seventh and he was removed with two out and the bases loaded again. Enter Jose Vizcaino, the pitching equal of the human rain-delay. Viz fell behind Millar 3-0 but came back to strike him out swinging.
The Yankees had a healthy 8-3 lead in the ninth inning. Jorge Posada (3-5), Robinson Cano (2-4) and Bobby Abreu (2-5, 2 RBI) lead the Yankee offense. Alex Rodriguez didn't look especially good at the plate but did have a hit and an RBI, which ties his career mark of 142.
Enter Kyle Farnsworth. Enter agitah. Farnsworth walked the lead-off man, threw a wild pitch, and gave up two hits, and before you knew it, Mariano Rivera, who was inadvertently struck by a ball on Sunday night in the Boston bullpen, was in the game to record the final out. He left a cutter in the middle of the plate to Huff, who singled to right, then struck out Mora swinging to earn his 29th save of the season, lowering his ERA to 2.98 in the process. It was a shame that Rivera had to be used at all, but the Yankees need every win they can get.
Mussina is on the hill tonight so anything goes. Unfortunately, Joba will not be available to pitch, as he went two innings on Sunday night.